Sep 302013

Another day at the Menie Estate, another breach of the approved planning permission occurs, and another retrospective planning application appears:  it certainly seems like business as usual. However, this latest application is a step too far for residents.
Suzanne Kelly provides background, and tells you how to object to the application and thereby help the residents of Leyton Cottage get their sunlight back.

Susan window 2

View from Munro kitchen of bund with vegetation preventing access where it previously existed, blocking light and view. July 2013_

Trump came, saw and continues to conquer both nature and our planning laws. What was meant to be temporary ‘stockpiling of earth’ has turned into a nightmare for Susan Munro and her family at Leyton Cottage.

Currently, there is an application and an accompanying report (written by environmental consultants working for Trump, Ironside Farrar) which would see giant bunds made permanent between Leyton Cottage and the rest of the estate to the detriment of those who live there.

Susan Munro has this to say about the bunds:-

“The bunds caused  drainage problems with water unable to get away due to the car park [formerly a green space, now tarmac] and washed our road away for weeks – we were unable to get home.  The large bund is blocking light from the house and also our views.”

Dirt blows into the house, into car engines; dirt and sand have killed many garden plants. The law as it stands doesn’t care about the views – but surely it must care about blocking light and property damage?

Anyone opposed to this proposal to keep and enlarge the bunds is advised to lodge their objections to Aberdeenshire Council’s Planning offices before 6 October.

Objecting is straightforward and can go a long way to helping one of the many long-suffering families. Again, people are literally living in Trump’s shadow, and this giant wall of earth serves to immure a cottage and its residents.

The application can be found here:
Here is where to lodge your objection: –

-and here is why you may wish to do so.

In an audacious, unannounced, callous move which was captured by Anthony Baxter in documentary You’ve Been Trumped, a huge mound of sand and earth was bulldozed into place between Leyton Cottage and its view of the land and sea back in 2010. No warning was given. At one point the assurance was given that these bunds were just part of construction and were temporary.

In fact Sarah Malone Trump VP, wife of supportive local newspaper editor Damian Bates said at the time:-

“With regard to the stockpiling of soil … this is a necessary part of the golf course construction process, for which we have full planning permission…  No-one is being intimidated – we are merely getting on with the business of building. The landowners in the vicinity know that they are now living in the middle of a very large construction site and work will only increase over the coming years.”

Perhaps Ms Malone should attend the hearing and explain the construction process and the engineering requirement for the bunds.

SignSandBundThis ‘stockpiling of soil’ ruined car engines at the Munro property, killed many of their garden plants, damaged their home – all from soil and sand blowing from the mound into their property from the bund.

They have not been able to view the sea from their home since.

A wooden bench on their land sits empty; it is on a hillside, and they used to sit up there and look out to sea.  Now they look out on a mound of earth covered with dying pines on top of it.

Perhaps Ms Malone – a woman who admits she has zero experience of building golf courses or housing complexes – believes this mound was business as usual, and was an approved, temporary measure. It’s still there, landscaped on the side viewed by the golf club visitors, covered with weeds and dying trees on the Munro side.

While there is some grass slightly lessening the effect of the blowing earth and sand, this constant stream of windblown dirt can be seen on a sign outside the cottage.

Ironside Farrar have not answered any emails from Aberdeen Voice, nor has its professional body, the Royal Institute of Town Planners. The RITP’s website boasts of the professional calibre of its members. Despite Ironside Farrar writing in its report to the Council the bunds have been lowered, the largest one is still there, unaltered, and the bunds do not appear to have been part of the approved original plan.

There has been some lowering of a short, tiny bund between the parking lot and the Munro house.

Trump said he didn’t want to see the houses – so he basically walled the people in, or so it seems.  Now he’s fighting to keep the bunds, submitting the Ironside report with his application concerning parking. If this nodded through, it will be a dark day for more than just the Munro family; it will mean seeking retrospective planning permission is an acceptable way to build.

I have been dealing with Susan Munro for some years now, I have seen the bunds and the damage they have done, the bunds have been a topic of conversation at every meeting we’ve had:  the family want the bunds gone.

Photos of Susan by her kitchen window looking out at the bund where sun and sea used to be seen, are both iconic and symbolic of how Trump treats his neighbours – with contempt.  Can you imagine looking out of your home one day at sea, sky, wildlife and sunlight – and the next day looking at nothing but a mound of earth?

This bund must not be allowed to stay. There is some possibility that this action breaches her human rights – it certainly looks to any feeling person like a gross act of bullying and intimidation.

The Report

The report by Ironside Farrar is at best illogical; at worst it seems to be misleading.  The report can be found here: extension=.pdf&id=9855674&location=VOLUME7&contentType=application%2Fpdf&pageCount=5

While Ironside Farrar start off their report by acknowledging  the conditions which were put on Trump for his non-spec parking lot, they have decided that the best thing to do is to ignore this rather clear directive, decide that they know what it really means, and then things get even less logical from there.  They start off:-

BundReportOf course, no reinvention or reinterpretation of the condition was required.  They did so anyway with their design proposal:-

BundReport2 When it comes to audacity, the report has no equal:

“This will in turn protect the residential amenity of the owner/occupier of the property.”  is their astonishing and easily disproved claim.

In an ideal world, planners, councillors and objectors would complain about this unsupported and illogical conclusion appearing in the report. In summary, rather than sticking to the instruction to take the bund down, the environmental consultants working for Trump decided a bund is somehow needed, and they have the nerve to suggest it is Susan Munro’s amenity they are being considerate of.

The consultants talk of using native species on the bunds which they propose to be made even larger. Clearly their concern for Susan Munro doesn’t extend to the drop in her property value these bunds so blatantly would mean.   They seem to be aware that the existing bunds are very steep (not great for tree root systems) and mostly composed of sand (perhaps why the doomed pine trees keep dying).

trees_to_be_planted_on_bund_near_S_Munro_trees_already_planted_not_doingvery_well_16_feb_13These trees by the way are perpetually planted in the sandy bund, watered by clumsy, unattractive plastic pipe systems, and inevitably die and get replaced.

It is wasteful and disrespectful to the environment that these trees are used in such a manner, but surely the report writers can’t stretch the truth so far as to say removing the trees constitutes reducing the bunds in height, can they?

Not that there is any sign of the trees actually coming down, until they finally turn brown and are dragged away to one of the rubbish tips on the estate.   The report closes with drawings showing massively high bunds, mature trees – but with no trace of the cottage on the plan; this is quite an oversight.

If you didn’t know precisely where the cottage was, these drawings are of little use.

They do however give you an idea of a massive wall of earth, a Great Wall of Menie, which will cut the Munros off from light even more so than the present bunds do, leaving the cottage in a claustrophobic cell: and these environmentalists, Ironside Farrar, have the gall to say it is for the Munro’s benefit.

It is hard to think that the planning authorities can possibly grant permission for the bunds to stay, or that any councillor, sworn to uphold the rights and needs of their constituents, would allow a neighbour to build a great wall of earth on a property boundary.

What they decide to do will speak volumes, and it will be widely reported.  Again, objections are due before 6 October; your help is needed.

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Apr 062012

A report on the UTG referendum was discussed at a meeting of full council on Wednesday with a view to it being approved before being sent to the Scottish Government. Friends of Union Terrace Gardens chairman Mike Shepherd was permitted to give a deputation. Aberden voice presents Mike’s deputation in full.

“I was allowed to give a deputation here in January when I said that the FoUTG would agree to take part in a referendum if it was fair.

We agreed to the referendum in spite of the shameful behaviour of this council in ignoring the result of the public consultation two years ago. We agreed for two reasons.

First, we saw the CGP as a juggernaut pushed through relentlessly by business and a friendly council. There were only two options to stop this; either through the referendum or legal action. We chose the referendum.

Secondly, we chose this route through public spirit. We were only too aware of the poisonous attitudes building on both sides of the issue. Aberdeen was at war with itself. A fair referendum was the only way of killing this beast.

I also told the council that the referendum would have to be fair because implicit in taking part was that we accepted the final result, whatever it was. This was said in good faith.


We do not accept the result. The process was flawed. Internet and phone voting should not have been allowed as without signatures, this was open to fraud. The Green party have also asked me to complain about their shortened message in the information pack that was sent out.

The City Garden Project supporters were allowed to spend tens of thousands of pounds on PR, newspapers, leaflets and radio ads. This money spent on advertising bought a marginal result for the referendum.

The ads were often misleading and in some instances blatantly so. We were told of a bogus £182M investment, consisting of a bogus £15M of private investment and a bogus £20M Art Gallery grant which didn’t exist. One misleading ad is under investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority.

This council also misled the public. The claim that a new park could create 6,500 jobs was utterly ludicrous. They did not explain the risks of borrowing through TIF properly, even when Audit Scotland expressed their concerns about the long term implications for the Council’s finances.

You are £618M in debt, you cannot afford the risk on further borrowing.

The council were partial to one side of the referendum. The ACGT were allowed to show a video in the Art Gallery, council property, yet we were excluded until after several days of complaint on the matter.

This was a dishonest referendum. The public were misled right up the City Garden path. The council should vote to ignore the result. Furthermore, this report should not be passed onto the Scottish Government as suggested. The proposal to spend valuable investment and infrastructure money on something as trivial as a new park is a disgrace.

We do not accept the result of the referendum and we intend to carry on campaigning to save Union Terrace Gardens. Thank you.”

Evening Express report here.

Feb 102012

The uncertain fate of the ancient elms in Union Terrace Gardens is highlighted by Mike Shepherd.

There are 77 mature trees in Union Terrace Gardens and a few more along the adjacent railway line. It is not clear how many of these will be felled during the construction of the proposed City Garden; however most will probably go. An Evening Express article suggested that they will all be removed, whilst it was mentioned at the January council meeting that some of the trees in the north-west corner may be kept.

Rather bizarrely, the same Evening Express article mentions that the wood from the Union Terrace Gardens trees could be recycled for the construction of the City Garden, that is for paths and the wooden roof of the outdoor stage, “keeping them in the garden”.

It is proposed that the new trees in the City Garden will comprise a “mini-forest” of 186 trees, mostly Scots Pines.

The fate of the twelve elms in the park is a highly controversial issue. A handful of these trees are considered by the council to be at least 200 years old. They may be even older. A report gives mention to the planting by the Town Council in 1764 of a thick woodland on the hillside to the west of the Denburn.

The trees in the park are disease-free. Occasional comments made by certain ill-informed councillors that Dutch Elm Disease is present in the Gardens are not true. The trees are inspected from time to time. The symptoms of the disease show up in the summer when leaves turn yellow and fall off early. This has not been seen in any of the Union Terrace Gardens elms.

 As far as mature trees in the city are concerned, the council can do what it wants.

The disease, a fungus carried by bark beetles, has devastated elm trees throughout most of the UK. It is estimated that more than 25 million elms have been killed by the disease with very few mature trees left.

The disease spread to the north of Scotland only in the last twenty years and pockets of relatively disease-free elms have survived here. Aberdeen city is one such pocket. The disease has been recorded in only a few trees in the west end of the city, but it is generally absent.

Elsewhere in the north-east, Dutch Elm Disease has recently been killing large swathes of elms. Most, if not all, of the elm trees on Drum Castle Estate have succumbed, for example. It is to be hoped that the city stays relatively clear of the disease for as long as possible.

Aberdeen is said to have “possibly the largest remaining population of elms in Northern Europe that has not yet succumbed to the deadly Dutch Elm Disease.”

The mature trees in Union Terrace Gardens have been assigned Tree Preservation Orders by the Council. A document is available online which explains the policy towards protected trees in Aberdeen. The following are quotes from the document:

“A tree preservation order (TPO) is an order made by us, giving legal protection to trees or woodland. A TPO prevents cutting down, uprooting, topping, lopping, wilful damage or destruction of trees (including cutting roots) without the council’s permission.

“The purpose of a TPO is to protect trees that contribute to amenity and the character and attractiveness of a locality. Other factors such as heritage and wildlife value can be taken into account. A TPO gives the council an opportunity to assess the impact of work to trees or proposals which may affect them.” However, it goes on:

“The existence of a TPO can not in itself prevent the development of land taking place, but the council, as planning authority, has a duty to have regard to the preservation and planting of trees and the likely effect of development proposals on trees is a material consideration.” 

In other words, as far as mature trees in the city are concerned, the council can do what it wants. A tree preservation order on the Union Terrace Gardens elms does not necessarily protect them.

The result of the referendum on the Gardens in March will also decide the fate of the elms. For some in the city, it is a major issue. They see the removal of the trees in Union Terrace Gardens as a crime against nature. These are amongst the last surviving mature elms in the country, Europe even.

For many it would be a sad day if and when they are chopped down. There is an online petition to save the 200-year old elms:

Jan 242012

With thanks to Iain Richardson.

Campaign group “ Common Good Aberdeen ” will demonstrate at 10am outside tomorrow’s special Council Meeting. Councillors will be voting on proposals to progress the City Garden Project.

Common Good Aberdeen campaigns for better stewardship of the Common Good Lands, of which Union Terrace Gardens are a prime example.

Common Good Land is owned by the community and should managed on their behalf by the Council.

The campaigners believe these proposals are flawed because:

  •  1. Union Terrace Gardens are Common Good Land. The Gardens are a highly valuable asset owned by the people of Aberdeen. It is wrong for the Council to vote these development proposals through, before the citizens of Aberdeen have had a chance to vote.
  •  2. A report costing £100000, paid for with taxpayers’ money, has failed to demonstrate a business case for the City Garden Project. The “TIF Business Case” report was released to Councillors only last Friday. It lumps together a total of 10 development proposals. These include two large industrial zones in Dyce and Bridge of Don. The report forecasts job creation and economic gains for all 10 projects. There is absolutely no evidence for economic benefit arising solely from the City Garden Project.

Councillors should reject all proposals at the special meeting. They have been given misleading and unclear information about the supposed economic benefits of the City Garden Project.

The Council has no mandate to decide the fate of Union Terrace Gardens ahead of a public referendum. As no economic case has been provided for the City Garden Project, Councillors have no choice but to reject these proposals.

For more information, contact:
Iain Richardson,, tel 07833 453961

Dec 092011

The Council will be voting on Wednesday on proceeding with either a referendum or an opinion poll in an attempt to resolve the controversy over the fate of Union Terrace Gardens. Mike Shepherd reports that the outcome of the issue on a referendum question has already turned into a total mess.

One of the issues that has been recognised is the need to ensure that the wording of any question asked is fair and acceptable to both sides.

On this basis, both the Friends of Union Terrace Gardens and the Aberdeen City Garden Trust were asked to concur on a suitable question for councillors to agree on at the full Council meeting on the 14th of December.

In practice, this would involve a council officials acting as a mediator.

In good faith, I submitted a group suggestion for the question to the Council as follows:

You are being to ask to choose between either retaining Union Terrace Gardens or replacing them with the proposed City Garden Project design

Which option do you support?

A) Retaining Union Terrace Gardens
B) Building the City Garden Project

Very simple, clear and nothing controversial, you would have thought.

The Council Officer replied with this:

“For your information, based on the responses I have received, the proposed question that I will now be recommending to Council on 14 December (subject to final, last minute consultation with other Council Officers), is as follows:

You are being to ask to choose between either retaining Union Terrace Gardens or replacing them with the proposed City Garden Project design (please read the voter information pack to make sure you understand what is meant by “retaining Union Terrace Gardens ” and “the proposed City Garden Project”).

Which option do you support? (please place a cross in the appropriate box)

A) Retaining Union Terrace Gardens
B) Building the City Garden Project

“I feel that this is a reasonable compromise and trust the FOUTG agree that this represents a fair and balanced position. Kind regards, Gerry Brough.”

I agreed to this. So what happens next?

The Aberdeen City Garden Trust left it to the last possible moment to object to this, allowing no time to be made for any compromise. This was at about 5pm on Monday night this week, when the final wording was needed for the Council report first thing Tuesday.

“Dear Mike,

“Further to my earlier note, I can confirm that ACGT have replied this afternoon asking for some changes to be made to the proposed question, so that it reads as follows:

You are being asked to choose between either retaining Union Terrace Gardens or replacing them with the proposed City Garden Project design which includes Union Terrace Gardens and the covering of the adjacent dual carriageway and railway line.
[please read the voter information pack to make sure you understand what is meant by retaining Union Terrace Gardens and the proposed City Garden Project]

Which option do you support ? (please place a cross in the appropriate box)

A) The proposed City Garden Project
B) Retaining Union Terrace Gardens

“ACGT feel that the previous suggested compromise question makes it appear that the City Garden Project is restricted to Union Terrace gardens, when in fact UTG is only part of the City Garden Project development area.

“They also feel that since retention of the gardens is placed at the beginning of the introductory paragraph, it is only fair that the option for supporting the proposed City Garden project should be the first option on the ballot paper.

“Can you please indicate whether these changes are acceptable to FOUTG.

“Regards, Gerry Brough”

I replied that the proposed wording was highly ambiguous, confusing and gives far more wordage to one side than the other. The Council official then decided that as the two sides could not agree on the referendum question, the councillors should decide at the full Council meeting next Wednesday instead.

“Since it was not possible to obtain complete agreement prior to the submission of this Council paper, Council are therefore asked to take a view as to whether they would prefer to endorse the question in 5.3 d), 5.3 e) or 5.3 f) or, indeed, whether they wish to propose a further compromise between these three positions.”

I complained bitterly about this as what had happened here was highly irregular.


“We participated in good faith last week. The ACGT only replied last night, too late. This has stalled the process of mediation as recommended by councillors. This is unacceptable.

“We are not at fault and should not be penalised for this. We insist that our question should stand. This does not bode well for a fairly conducted referendum and we may have to reconsider our options. – Mike”

I received this reply from Mr Brough (this is the last bit of the email):

“Nobody is being penalised.

“As you can see from the attached 5.3 that I sent to you, the process for determining the question is set out clearly up to the final submission received before the paper needed to be submitted. Council members are then being asked to either choose between these latest proposals, or come up with an alternative of their own that they consider to be fair and balanced for both parties.

“I understand your desire to undermine process, as a means of campaigning against any development of UTG. However, in this case, I believe that you are stretching a point to suggest that you have been in any way treated unfairly

“Also, although you “insist” that the FOUTG question should stand, FOUTG need to accept the fact that any referendum will be run by the City Council and that it is ultimately for the Counting Officer to decide, after consultation with Campaign Groups, on a suggested question.

“At a statutory referendum, the question is set by parliament, through consultation and, although there are no rules for the Council to follow, best practice suggests this should be done by the Counting Officer. This is the view expressed by the Electoral Commission.

“The Council are therefore putting in place a process to test various proposed options in advance of the Council Meeting, so that both Council and the Counting Officer can have some comfort concerning the appropriateness of the question.

“Regards, Gerry”

I now have a series of meetings with Councillors and the Council Executive to discuss what has happened. I will make it clear that the ongoing participation in a referendum depends on both sides being treated fairly. However, this is not a good start.

STOP PRESS – Council seeks views of the public re referendum question.
Consultation closes Monday 12th December.

Dec 012011

Last year Aberdeen City Council proposed the complete closure or privatisation of Aberdeen Instrumental Music Service. After a strong campaign, the council was persuaded of the senselessness of its proposal. We were assured that the existence of the Music Service would be safeguarded, provided the Music Service made cuts requested by Aberdeen City Council. It did. The service was saved for a year, but it is once again under threat. Kathryn Reid tells Voice about the Come and Play Protest

On Tuesday 6 December, the Council’s Finance and Resources Committee will meet to discuss Priority Based Budgeting: Draft financial budget 2012-2013 5-Year Business Plan budget.

Once again it contains a proposal to ‘withdraw music tuition’.

We want to demonstrate to councillors how much musical talent is thriving in Aberdeen thanks to the Aberdeen Instrumental Music Service, and we aim to do this in the most obvious way – by playing and singing!

We are planning a Peaceful Playing Protest in Union Terrace Gardens, from 12noon to2pm at the same as the budget meeting is taking place. We are inviting as many people as possible to attend so we can really make an impact. If you are a member of an instrumental or vocal musical group, please come along with your friends and lend your talents.

More information and details are available from


This is a peaceful protest. Bring a smile and your best behaviour!

Union Terrace Gardens doesn’t have facilities for an orchestra, so take along music stands if you need them.

Neither chairs nor a PA system can be provided, so remember this when planning your performance.

Union Terrace Gardens managers have been kind enough to let us use the space, let’s show our gratitude – don’t leave behind litter or damage the area!

It’s Aberdeen, and it’s December….wrap up warm!


Write to councillors on the Finance and Resources Committee giving your point of view

Write to your MSPs

You can find addresses and links for councillors and MSPs at

Sign the online petition at:

Tuesday 6 December,
12noon – 2pm.
Union Terrace Gardens, 


Nov 142011

With thanks to Kathryn Reid.

Here We Go Again! (not) Happy As Can Be!
It was extremely disappointing to read in the newspaper that Aberdeen City’s Instrumental Music Service is again under threat by the proposed budget cuts.

After the demonstrations and campaign of last year, assurance was given that the Music Service was safe – albeit with a massively reduced budget. Once again, it seems that an important educational service is back on the table as a possible cut.

The Music Service in Aberdeen costs less per child than in any other Scottish music service. Compare this with the fact that more than 40% of the children taking part in National Orchestras, Brass and Jazz bands come from Aberdeen City – value for money indeed!

Last year the Music Service had its budget slashed by £520k – not the £170k claimed in the new Priority Based Budget on the ACC website – and it now operates on a budget of £789k from Aberdeen City Council for its 3000 pupils.

For clarity it should be noted that the Music Service and the Music School (ACMS) are two separate entities receiving their funding from different sources. ACMS, which is based in Dyce Academy, receives an annual grant of £1million from the Scottish Executive for its 40 pupils. It receives no funding from ACC.

Although the ‘Withdraw Music Tuition’ option is below the red line and is therefore under the heading of “ undesirable to progress,” it is precariously close to the red line and would become a very real option should any of the cuts above it fail to get approval.

Aberdeen’s excellent Instrumental Service should be protected and taken off the table as far as making budget cuts are concerned. Withdrawing Music tuition completely will impact on many of our children’s lives. The vision for Music in the recently introduced Curriculum for Excellence for Scotland is “Performing and creating music will be prominent activities for all learners.”

The Aberdeen City Council’s proposal to withdraw Music tuition is thus completely at odds with the Scottish Governments stated entitlement for children.

More information re.  F.A.I.M. (Friends of Aberdeen Instrumental Music), and how you can help, can be found on their web site:

STOP PRESS: A petition has been launched in opposition to the withdrawal of music tuition in Aberdeen.
Sign the petition here:

Oct 072011

The Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Union Terrace Gardens was held at the Aberdeen Arts Centre on Saturday 1st October with over a hundred members present.  FoUTG Chairman Mike Shepherd reports.

The Friends group was set up last years with the aim of campaigning to save the gardens from development and currently has over 700 members.

Two major decisions were approved by the members present.
The Friends now fully support the idea of the proposed referendum currently being investigated by Aberdeen Council.

The suggested referendum would be a vote between a final design for the City Garden Project and a sympathetically restored Union Terrace Gardens.

The group is totally confident of winning any referendum.

The Friends also reaffirmed the aim of taking over the stewardship of Union Terrace Gardens once the City Garden Project is out of the way. We would act in a similar role as the Friends of Duthie Park, who have been very successful in getting funds to restore the Victorian park. Providing toilets, easier access and a play park were some of the options discussed at the meeting.

This was a very positive meeting, and the members are confident that we will save the park. The design competition is not seen as a serious threat, as we trust our fellow citizens to recognise the stupidity of building a modern city square in the middle of a city full of old and beautiful granite buildings.

When we discussed the referendum, the shout was ‘bring it on, we will win.’ The enthusiasm and determination to win through and to restore of our much-loved gardens as a fully-functioning
park was evident.

We are a group that cares deeply about Aberdeen’s wonderful heritage and a community-led force for the greater good of our beautiful city.